From the archive - 17.05.1917

7th October 2011 at 01:00

The future of German in England

There can be little doubt that among the common run of Englishmen there will be a resolute desire after the war to cut Germany, the Germans and everything German dead.

This feeling against Germany is bound to be reflected in the educational world and affect the study of the German language. The study of German, never a popular subject in England, and rarely thoroughly learnt among those who took it up, will inevitably decline still further if parents and pupils have their way. It will be contrary to human nature to expect anything else.

What does civilisation owe to modern Germany? The popular answer will be ... nothing! The answer of those who are well qualified to pronounce an opinion may be ... very little. The Germany of old - such as some of us still fondly supposed to be lying dormant under the militarist system and to be waiting for the overthrow of that tyranny to be resuscitated - is in reality as dead as Kant and Goethe and Schiller themselves.

The latter-day philosophy of blood and iron, of the superman and ruthlessness, will, it is to be hoped, be also dead; at any rate, it has been exposed and shown up, and we know at least what we did not know before the war: that we have nothing to learn from it.

We know what it is by practical experience, and there is no reason why our children should have to study it second-hand in books. On humanistic grounds, apart from scientific or commercial, the German language, as written and spoken for the last 50 years, has now nothing to offer our children. It never had, but this we did not always realise. German, it must be confessed, cannot compare with Greek, Latin, French, or English for literary masterpieces.

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